Upon his arrival at Safeco Field on Thursday, Astros right fielder George Springer told manager Bo Porter he’s ready to play. Alas, Springer, who strained his right hip flexor in the ninth inning Wednesday in Anaheim, was held out of the lineup by Porter.
Springer said Thursdays he’s still sore but could play if needed. He didn’t take batting practice Thursday.
“I want to help contribute no matter what,” he said. “I like playing every day. I’m an everyday kind of guy. If I’m not playing, it’s tough. If he needs me, I’ll get ready to go out and just try to help.”
Porter typically airs on the side of caution and likes to give players an extra day when they say they’re ready.
“He’s much better, but we decided to give him a day,” Porter said. “The injury happened [Wednesday] night and it’s not something you want to risk any further damage. We’re going to give him a day today and [Friday] he’ll come out and he’ll run around.”
Representing the tying run at first with one out in a 2-1 loss to the Angels, Springer’s leg gave out on him as he tried to get back to the base as Angels right-hander Jered Weaver made a quick — and successful — pickoff move.
“I woke up today happy, breathing, so I can play,” he said.
The Astros have agreed to terms with free agent right-handed pitcher Kyle Farnsworth, who will be in uniform for Saturday’s game against the White Sox. Reliever Paul Clemens was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City after Friday’s game.
Farnsworth, 38, posted three saves and a 3.18 ERA in 19 Major League games with the Mets this season. He was given his release Wednesday, just two days after earning a save for the Mets in their 9-7 win over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
A veteran of 16 Major League seasons, Farnsworth has appeared in 877 career games with the Cubs (1999-2004), Tigers (2005, 2008), Braves (2005, 2010), Yankees (2006-08), Royals (2009-10), Rays (2011-13), Pirates (2013) and Mets (2014).
Clemens, 26, has made eight appearances for the Astros this season, posting a 4.08 ERA. He pitched Friday against the White Sox, tossing 2 1/3 innings. With the addition of Farnsworth, the Astros 40-man roster is now full at 40.
After going with a closer by committed for the first quarter of the season, Astros manager Bo Porter on Friday proclaimed veteran Chad Qualls would be handling the closing duties from now on.
Qualls, 35, had been one of a handful of relievers who have been in the mix to close this season, including Josh Fields, Anthony Bass and Matt Albers. Bass and Albers are on the disabled list and Fields recently returned from Triple-A after struggling to close games, so in a sense it was a decision made via attrition.
“We have a lead in the ninth, Chad Qualls will get the ball,” Porter said. “He’s really been good of late and it actually looks like his [velocity] is back, his heavy sinker has been working — it’s ground ball after ground ball. If we have a lead and he’s available, he’ll get the ball.”
Qualls, who returned to Houston as a free agent in December, has definitely been throwing better. Since blowing a save April 19 at Oakland, he’s recorded nine consecutive scoreless outings, with nine strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. As a team, the Astros have converted only seven of 15 save chances
“You look at the early woes we had in our bullpen, we didn’t have too many guys who were throwing the ball well,” Porter said. “I think this last stretch in which we got going, things are starting to come together and Chad has thrown the ball extremely well.”
Qualls has extensive experience closing games. He converted 24 of 29 save chances in 2009 with Arizona and 12 of 16 with the D-backs in 2010. He’s two of three in save situations for the Astros this year.
Porter doesn’t buy into the notion relief pitchers perform better when their rolls are defined.
“I’ve always said this: when the phone rings and you’re name is called, whatever the situation is, it’s your job to execute in that situation,” Porter said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifth inning, sixth inning, seventh inning, eight inning, ninth inning. When you’re on a team and you’re called to execute a situation, it’s your job to do the best you can to execute.”
Astros reliever Matt Albers said Wednesday he could be out of action for another three to four weeks while he recovers from tendinitis in his right shoulder. Albers had a cortisone injection in the shoulder Tuesday and will head to Kissimmee, Fla., at some point within the next week to continue to rehab.
Albers, on the disabled list since April 22, tried to throw a simulated game Friday in Baltimore but didn’t feel right warming up and shut it down. He’s since underwent an MRI that showed no structural damage to the shoulder.
“Throwing at 60, 70 percent was fine, and I really tried to ramp it up and the pain came back,” he said. “I took the next step and got an MRI and structurally everything looked good, which is a good sign. There’s just inflammation in there. That’s what’s causing the pain. They went ahead and gave me a couple of cortisone shots and I will take a couple of weeks off and see where I’m at. I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s a good three to four weeks before I come back.”
Albers, signed to a contract this offseason, has pitched in eight games this season, allowing one earned run in 10 innings. He was on the disabled list from June 26-Oct. 21, 2008 with right shoulder inflammation.
“It’s definitely discouraging,” he said. “Obviously, you’d love to be out there helping the team. I pride myself in being pretty durable and I haven’t had any issues with being on the DL, except for 2008. It’s definitely unfortunate, but it just kind of happens that you have to deal with it. I tried to come back quickly and it wasn’t working, so I have to take time and make sure it’s right.”
Meanwhile, Astros reliever Anthony Bass felt some discomfort on the right side of his torso while playing catch Tuesday and has been diagnosed with a strained intercostal muscle. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.
“It’s sore,” Bass said. “I’m going to give it time and ice. Everyone’s different. It all depends on how the body responds to the treatment and then I’ll be back.”
Bass, 26, is 1-0 with two saves and a 4.50 ERA in 15 games for the Astros this season. He leads the club with four holds and has allowed a .239 opponent’s batting average this year.
“It’s not disappointing because I was throwing the ball hard, it’s disappointing because I want to get out there and help the team win,” he said. “These things happen. It’s unfortunate. I’ll be back. Hopefully the treatment responds and I come back here soon, but we’ll see. There’s really no timetable.”
The rash of injuries to pitchers that are requiring Tommy John surgery this season won’t be immune to the Astros, who announced Tuesday right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero will undergo the procedure next week.
Cisnero, who suffered a strained ulnar collateral ligament last week in Detroit, was examined Tuesday by team physical Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff, who recommended surgery. Mehlhoff will perform the surgery in Houston.
“You know it happens in the industry and you see it happen to other players, but you don’t expect it to happen to you,” general manager Jeff Luhnow said.
Cisnero was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 25 and appeared in five games with the Astros. He shares the same agent with former Astros pitcher Fernando Rodriguez, who underwent the surgery shortly after he was traded to the A’s last February.
“He’s been able to talk to him about the experience and he knows what to expect,” Luhnow said. “He’s young and he’s got a good arm and I’m sure he’ll come back.”
Meanwhile, Luhnow said veteran right-handed reliever Matt Albers received a cortisone shot Tuesday in his right shoulder and won’t throw a baseball for 10 days while he recovers from tendinitis. He’s been on the disabled list since April 22.
The good news for the Astros is an MRI showed some inflammation, but no structural damage to Albers’ shoulder.
“It’s going to be longer than we originally expected, but it’s not anything that will hinder him long term,” Luhnow said.
With Jesse Crain (biceps tendinitis surgery) having not pitched this year and Albers limited to eight games, two of the three veteran relievers the Astros acquired to improve their bullpen are now on the shelf.
“It’s a setback,” Luhnow said. “I talked to Crain and he’s feeling better every day. We’re still unclear as to his return. That’s why you try and build up as much depth as you can. Clearly, two-thirds of our master plan to fix the bullpen is not available, and that hurts. We’ll overcome it. Fortunately, both of them are expected to return and hopefully they’ll come back and contribute. In the meantime, the other guys will step up and it provides opportunity.”
Several Astros players took the opportunity Sunday to don pink gear in honor of Mother’s Day. While starting pitcher Jarred Cosart wore pink cleats for his mother, who was in the stands Sunday, players Jesus Guzman, Alex Presley, Marc Krauss, L.J. Hoes and George Springer had specially made pink bats.
The bats are of a special significance to Hoes, whose mother, Gail Hoes, and grandmother, Mary Hoes, are both breast-cancer survivors and were in attendance Sunday in Baltimore, which is near where L.J. grew up.
“This is the first time I’ve been home on Mother’s Day in a long time,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s going to be a great experience, and I’m happy I’m able to see her on Mother’s Day and happy I get to spend a little time with her.”
Krauss was swinging a pink bat in honor of his mother, Jenny.
“She’s an amazing mom,” he said. “I was so lucky and blessed to have her in my life. She puts up with a lot for me and my two older brothers. She deserves all the credit for raising us, and it’s cool to have a day like this where we get to celebrate all the great moms.
Mother’s Day is also significant for Krauss’ wife, Kelcey, who is celebrating her first Mother’s Day after giving birth to the couple’s first child, Ava, last offseason.
“It’s the first time she gets to celebrate and I get to celebrate her and everything she does,” he said. “She does so much for us. We’re gone half the time and that’s the only bad part of our job. She’s doing an amazing job and puts up with a lot and handles a lot. It’s a great day to be able to honor her, and I’m proud of her and happy we’re able to do this together.”
Springer’s mother, Laura Marie Springer, was also in attendance Sunday in Baltimore to see her son, who had pink bats with her name on them and pink cleats.
“At the end of the day, whether it’s cracked or not, I’ll hand that to her and give her the cleats I’ve got and let her kind of enjoy her day,” Springer said. “She means the absolute world to me. She’s had a huge impact on my life, and I wouldn’t be here today without her. Every day, to me, is Mother’s Day, but today is special for her and hopefully we can do something special for her.”
Astros relief pitcher Jose Cisnero has returned to Houston and was examined by a team doctor on Thursday after he felt discomfort in his elbow following his outing Tuesday against the Tigers in which he gave up two runs in one inning.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Thursday the team was still awaiting the results on the extent of the Cisnero injury and didn’t know if he would need to go on the disabled list.
“He had some discomfort, and so we let him come in the next day and get evaluated and we felt we needed to have him see our doctors and we sent him here,” said Luhnow, who remained in Houston during the series against the Tigers.
Cisnero was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 25 and appeared in five games with the Astros. Cisnero’s injury could play into the roster decisions the Astros are going to have to make soon. Starting pitcher Scott Feldman is set to come off the disabled list Friday, and reliever Matt Albers will throw a simulated game Friday and could come off the DL this weekend.
“There will probably be a couple of things we have to do depending on how long Ciserno is going to be out,” Luhnow said.
With veteran right-hander Scott Feldman set to come off the disabled list Friday and start against the Orioles, it’s still unclear who’s coming out of the starting rotation to make room for him.
What is known is that right-hander Collin McHugh, who made three starts in place of Feldman, will remain in the rotation and make his fourth start Saturday against the Orioles in Baltimore. Jarred Cosart will start Sunday’s series finale at Camden Yards.
Astros manager Bo Porter said the club will make a corresponding roster move prior to Friday’s game to open up a roster spot for Feldman, who will make his first start since April 17. It appears either Dallas Keuchel, Brad Peacock or Brett Oberholtzer will be removed from rotation.
McHugh was dazzling in his first two starts in place of Feldman. He struck out 12 batters in 6 2/3 innings April 22 at Seattle and held the A’s to one run and two hits in 8 2/3 innings April 27. He struggled a little bit in his previous outing Sunday against Seattle, allowing five earned runs and eight hits in four innings.
“He threw the ball well,” Porter said. “Even in the last start against Seattle, I felt like he battled. He still had his secondary stuff. It wasn’t as sharp as it was the first two times out, but you look at the body of work in the three starts, and I feel he deserves an opportunity.”
In a move that came as no surprise, the Astros optioned struggling relief pitcher Josh Fields to Triple-A Oklahoma City and recalled right-hander Josh Zeid, who was in uniform for Wednesday’s game at Comerica Park.
Zeid spent three days on the Major League roster last month while Matt Albers was on paternity leave. He pitched two games in Toronto and allowed two earned runs and four hits in three innings. He’s served as the closer at Oklahoma City and picked up his fifth save Tuesday night.
He had pitched in 11 games for the RedHawks this year and was 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA with 13 strikeouts and three walks.
Fields allowed five runs and six hits in two-thirds of an inning in Tuesday’s loss to the Tigers. In his last five outings, he had given up 14 earned runs and 14 hits in three innings after starting the season with a 2.00 ERA in his first nine games.
“I was throwing strikes and pitching the ball down in the zone,” Fields said Tuesday. “They were making some good swings on some pitches.”